Field Notes - Lisa Parsons

Field Notes

  • Sun, 25 Nov 2018 21:30:47 -0500

    A Drop of Water...

    There’s a drop of water on the wall
    And the drop’s about to fall
    And it falls into a trickle
    And the trickle’s flowing down
    Down, down, to the ground
    And the moss begins to grow
    Watch, watch, watch watch the water flow
    And watch the current become a stream

    Lyrics from “Drop of Water”

    By Dana Lyons

    Join King County Parks 
    on Saturday December 8th 
    9am to 1pm. 

    Enter at the end of SE 248th (the MV LIbrary road) 

    “King County Parks recently acquired a home site in the middle of Cedar Creek Park. Now we need your help to turn the former home site back into high quality habitat. Come plant native trees and shrubs before invasive weeds move in!”

    If you’re interested in participating it is important that you email
    Brian Lund at King County Parks brian.lund@kingcounty.gov



    How Rivers Form

    Most rivers begin life as drops of water creating a tiny stream running down a mountain slope or as an underground spring of water that collects below the surface of the earth and then emerges where the slope of the land meets the air.  They are fed by melting snow and ice, or by rainwater running off the land. The water follows the easiest course through channels, cracks, and folds in the land as it flows downhill. Small streams meet and join together, growing larger and larger until the flow can be called a river.



    The Green river has some major tributaries that contribute water into the larger river.  One of these creeks or streams is Jenkins Creek.  Jenkins Creek flows through Covington and Maple Valley from Lake Wilderness and Lake Lucerne. Another branch comes from the north near Shadow Lake. It is part of a system of tributaries that provide water to the Green River.  What happens in these tributaries affects the entire river system and eventually Puget Sound.

    Taking care of our tributaries is critical to improving and maintaining cold clean water, salmon habitat, and consistent water quantity in the main Green river.  Many of our urban and suburban streams no longer support health fish populations. Jenkins creek has become one of those streams. Yet, looking at other areas as a model we can work to reverse decades of mismanagement and restore these vital tributaries that flow into the Green-Duwamish river.

    In 2005 a landowner, Mo Munch, sold five acres on both sides of the Jenkins Creek to remain as open space and habitat in perpetuity. He talked about when Jenkins creek used to host a large salmon run. He told a story of when the bears used to catch salmon in the creek and feast on them along the shoreline of his property. Another land owner, the Burgesses, adjacent to him also sold their property which consisted of two houses and thirty acres with a beautiful forested pond and two branches of Jenkins creek running through the property.



    Today their property, along with an additional 94 acres, is owned by King County Parks and is now called Cedar Creek Park.  Thirteen years have passed since the initial sale of the properties and it now time for the community to get involved in restoring the properties and connecting them to the upper section of Cedar Creek Park.  Make history on December 8th by participating in a groundbreaking restoration event.  This will be a great opportunity to visit the lower property, participate in creating the park, and learning more about a future vision for the area.

    Just like drops of water form a river each of us can be part of a larger groundswell by volunteering to restore, protect, and enhance the wild spaces and waterways in our own communities.


  • Sun, 21 Oct 2018 21:27:30 -0400

    Orca Whales and Chinook Salmon

    What do Orcas and Chinook Salmon Have in Common?

    They both need clean water to survive. This summer we were struck by the powerful images of a our Puget Sound Orcas carrying a dead baby whale around for two weeks. It tugged at our heart strings and cries rang out to save the Orcas.

    The initiative to save Puget Sound goes beyond just the body of water that constitutes the Sound. Our mountains hold snow that then melts and flows down our streams into rivers that then flow into Puget Sound carrying clean water and nutrients seaward.

    What happens upstream has a direct impact on the water quality and habitat in our region. That, in turn, has an impact on our salmon, Orcas, humans, and other wildlife.

    The Green-Duwamish river watershed is one part of a vast network of river arteries that flow into Puget Sound. As a river that flows out of the Cascade foothills it has been tamed by the Howard Hanson dam which supplies the city of Tacoma with drinking water. Below the dam the river flows into the Green River Gorge. The Gorge, through a history of conservation efforts has remained relatively untouched along its 12 mile

    The morning was fresh and clear.  A soft white fog hung just above the trees down stream.  The sun lingered before reaching up above the trees.  There in the current was the constant rustle of the salmon as they staged in the river’s current and slack water.  I started capturing images in the shade.  As the sun rose, prisms of sunlight pierced the water and added light beneath the river’s surface.

    I watched as an ancient ritual replayed itself in the deep green waters of the Green River Gorge.  Salmon returning from the ocean.  Turning south into Puget Sound to enter the mouth of the Green-Duwamish river.  

    They return, having survived their journey.  They have escaped ocean predators.  They survived the pollution of the Duwamish river downstream (There is hope for the Duwamish).    They pushed up through the channelized canal of river lined with blackberry brambles through Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn (Regreening the Green River).  Then through the transitioning landscape from urban to rural farm land, and then finally forest as the river exits the gorge.  

    It is like a soft breath.  The air after a rainstorm.  A stretch upon awakening.  The water clears and the temperature of the water lowers as the shade of forest and sandstone cliffs rise along the shoreline.  Small and large springs tumble down from underground channels that surface as the landscape above, slopes towards the gorge.  The cold water springs feed the river with water all year round.

    The salmon come like they have millions of times before.  Pushing on through thousands of years of human history and a constantly changing landscape to the home of their ancestors before them.

    As I watch this ritual of renewal I realize that we can no longer take them for granted.  Each of us, as humans, can consciously change our own course and act as stewards of our river; our salmon; our shared future.

    The song that accompanies the video is called “Ancestors” by Bruce Cockburn.


    Where to see Chinook Salmon this weekend

    Current best place to view returning salmon in the Green River Gorge.  Kanaskat State Park along the trails that follow the river.  Grab a map at the entrance and explore the trails along the river and look for salmon.  http://parks.state.wa.us/527/Kanaskat-Palmer

    Learn how to identify Salmon:  http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animals-and-plants/salmon-and-trout/salmon-watchers/gallery.aspx


    For more information on how you can help salmon and the Green-Duwamish River visit:

    Green River Gorge

    Washington State Parks Foundation.  Want to see Washington State Parks develop trails and purchase more land along the Green River Gorge Greenway?  You can donate to the Washington State Parks Foundation and designate the donation to be used for Green River Gorge State Park improvements.  http://wspf.org

    Black Diamond Historical Society.  Volunteer with the to clear trails and preserve historical areas along the Green River Gorge.

    Live Downstream?

    Want to help your river?  Volunteer at the Duwamish Alive Event on October 22nd:  http://www.duwamishalive.org/

    Contact King County Parks and volunteer on the Green-Duwamish River.  King County Parks

    Earthcorps hosts events on the Green-Duwamish. www.earthcorps.org

    More technical information

    King County Salmon Recovery:  http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/watersheds/green-river.aspx

  • Mon, 10 Sep 2018 20:41:26 -0400

    #tdarutamaya after party! 1.5 years later we finally got back...


    #tdarutamaya after party! 1.5 years later we finally got back on our road bikes with our Ruta Maya jerseys. Only 72 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. Easy after the 1600 mile 6 Everest sized cumulative climbs. What did I realize? I really like mt. Biking more 😋 #rutamaya, tdaglobalcycling (at South Lake Tahoe, California)
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BnkOnRHFOeSYPRmwCgl-UbzfweRt8qAqJQIZP80/?utm_source=ig_tumblr_share&igshid=pj3lgh37jaaz

  • Sun, 12 Aug 2018 22:00:53 -0400

    Hungry Beaver

    The Northwestern American Beaver



    Recently I visited the other Green River in Utah.  As we were setting up our whitewater rafts for a seven-day trip down the Desolation-Grey section of the Green we had a very unusual visit.  From across the river a beaver started swimming gracefully towards us.  His body and tail undulating fluidly through the water.  He made his way to the rocky beach and without hesitation lumbered onto land and nonchalantly walked by our boats and equipment on his way to some young cottonwood trees with bright green leaves.  He completely ignored us and instead focused on munching on his evening meal of cottonwood leaves.  We were able to stand just feet away from this allusive wild river creature and watch him eat his dinner.



    I’ve always been curious about the, often maligned, beaver.  I had an early morning glimpse of a beaver along the Green at Flaming Geyser State Park on the Green River in Washington.  That morning I heard a crack and saw a tree branch fall into the river from a riverside maple tree.  Then I watched as it began moving downstream at a pace far faster then the current. Upon closer inspection I realized that it was driven by a beaver.  He steered that branch into a small alcove created by a larger downed tree along the far shore of the river.  Then he proceeded to stuff that branch into the alcove where it disappeared. Unfortunately I wasn’t set up to take fast moving low light photos so I didn’t adequately capture this whole occurrence on an early morning photo shoot.  

    They have this drive to dam water.  Why?   Beavers create refuges in deeper pond water to create an escape from predators. They dam up running water to create these deep-water pools.  They literally react to the sound of running water and use twigs and mud to dam up the moving water.  Besides creating these refuges they build lodges made up of the trees, twigs, mud, and rocks. They are usually strategically located in the middle of the ponds in a their dam and can only be access by underwater entrances for protection.  Inside these lodges store food, raise young, and seek protection from the winter weather. Through their industrious construction of dams and lodges they can change the course of rivers and create ponds and lakes where there had only been fields and forests.  The results of their work help store runoff, recharge ground water, and provide habitat for other species.  They improve water quality by creating filtration and slowing the movement of runoff so it has time to filter and for sediment to settle.


    In my history classes I learned about how early explorers in the Americas were shaped by the pursuit of the fur that these critters possessed.  AS beaver populations were exhausted on the east coast, the fur trade pushed exploration and settlement out west and, as a result, decimated beaver populations throughout America and Canada.  Beaver pelts were sought after for making clothing and beaver hats. Then as settlement expanded they were hunted to prevent them from doing what they do best, building dams.  Their industrious pursuit could result in flooded crops and homesteads. As they were hunted their population of 100-200 million dwindled to near extinction.  


    Today, through protections in the late 19thand 20thcenturies beaver populations have rebounded to estimated population of 10-15 million. Since that time they are still controlled but we’ve come to understand the ecological value of having beavers in our natural world. 



    In the Green River, beavers still make their space within the confines of the river gorge.  The one that I saw at Flaming Geyser was creating a lodge in a riverbank on the deep side of a turn.  They migrate as well and may be found in side or many of the springs and seeps that flow into the Green River Gorge.  Downstream as the Green becomes the Duwamish and is channeled into a narrow passage, government agencies are working to expand side channels and flood plains, which play an important role in salmon conservation. Perhaps there will be a place for beavers to help with the restoration projects to protect and restore the health of the river.  Within the Gorge, due to its isolation and lack of development, beavers may find a habitat free from the constraints of a human centered riverscape.



    For more info on beavers you can visit these websites:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_beaver

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/b/beaver/

  • Fri, 10 Aug 2018 21:24:25 -0400

    Hungry Beaver from Lisa Delfiner Parsons on Vimeo.This video is...


    Hungry Beaver from Lisa Delfiner Parsons on Vimeo.

    This video is about My Movie 1

  • Sun, 08 Jul 2018 22:30:10 -0400

    Summer Swimming Hole

    Late Summer Swimming Hole Below 

    A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea



    The description, A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea, was in an article in a local newspaper.  I read that and immediately knew without seeing the photo where that location was in the Green River Gorge. 

    Beyond the gate at the end of the parking area for the Green River Gorge Resort / Paradise area a series of old roads lead to different locations along the river.  Follow the road past the first left and take the second left toward the river.  Follow the primitive locals trail down along the hillside between the river and the uplands of the old town of Franklin.  Along the way you’ll see some old railway line.  


    Where the trail meets the river a giant rock spirals out of the deep green water like a whale.  White foam speckles the surface of the deep green color of the water.  At low water in July and August a rocky beach frames a deep green pool beneath the Whale rock.  A large flat rock sits in the middle of the pool.  Great for soaking up the sun on a hot day. 

    The river has changed in this area.  A few years ago a large slide came down the north side of the river sending a large mass of boulders, mud, and trees to form a new shoreline and add additional rocks in the river.  The Green River, like any river, is constantly changing.  The ground along the sandstone bedrock is fluid with heavy rain saturated ground giving way to the power of gravity.  The Gorge remains a deep ditch between two communities but within it is always changing.  Small beaches are eroded and new beaches are formed by the power of water.  Hillsides slough, and and trees topple.



    In the winter the river is wild.  The high water pulses and pushes against the sandstone cliffs carving bowls, tunnels, and smooth undulating walls.  In the summer the current at low water wanders slowly between exposed boulders and riffles tumble gently into deep languid pools.  It is in the summer that the Gorge is more friendly and inviting.  A swimming hole like this one beckons on those hot mid summer days when the frigid water is a welcome relief.

    As with any river use caution.  The Gorge is only a good place to swim in late July and August.  None of the trails in this area are officially maintained.  They are local’s trails and are often primitive and can be exposed in areas.  Use common sense.  Know your limits and enjoy the discovery of this amazing wild area just 30 miles from over 2 million people.

    To get there:  Turn east at the Cenex station on to Lawson Rd from highway 169 that runs thru Black Diamond.  Follow the road 4 miles down to the river.  Right before the one lane bridge turn right on to a gravel road and a wide open area with parking on the left.  Park, put your $5 into the box at the entry.  Walk to the end of the parking area past the gate that separates the private land from Washington State Parks land.  Follow past the first left and take the second left.  Follow it down to the river.

  • Sun, 01 Jul 2018 22:00:56 -0400

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Green River Gorge Resort

    The Bridge Overlook

    The road winds down a long hill.  As it turns it passes a couple of houses, a spring spilling out of the hillside and what looks like an overgrown R.V. park.  The blinking light is a stop sign to either stop or go for cars on either side of a one lane bridge.  Only one car from either direction can cross the bridge at a time.  The Green River Gorge Road (or Lawson Road as it is known in Black Diamond) crosses over one of the most beautiful sections of the Green River Gorge…and one of the more accessible areas outside of Washington State Parks.


    The Green River Gorge Resort has gone through many incarnations.  In the 1920s it was privately owned resort with a hotel, cabins, and a service station.   In the wild 70s and 80s it had a reputation as a party spot that drew locals and others who would come to jump off the cliffs and swim in the late summer.  I remember going with a friend in the 1980s to go swim. At that time the old resort had an $2 entry fee, a snack bar, and a closed private campground. Today the old dilapidated green building houses a manufacturing facility for underwater salvage equipment and still has the private campground but the area is much quieter.  In front it isn’t uncommon to see the local residents sitting outside on the old weather worn deck.  You might even see a peacock on the roof or strolling across the roadway as you pass by.  

    A few years ago the owners of resort and surrounding area on both sides of the river reopened access to the Gorge.  For $5 that you place in a box on either side of the river you can park and access this incredible oasis.  From the resort side of the river you park in a lot across the street from the resort building near a small pond.  Then you enter through a chain link gate on the left side of the Green resort building and step into another world.  


    A wooden staircase leads under the one lane bridge towering above.  It bends a way down to the river passing by a spring that forms the waterfall further down.  A platform has bench beside the spring and overlooks the river below.  The end of staircase transitions to worn sandstone pathways.  One trail leads to a cave behind the iconic waterfall that you can see from the bridge overlook above.  Behind the waterfall in the cave is an pool carved out of the sandstone. A steel lined fence runs along the permitter of the cave to keep anyone from falling.  Water droplets form rain beneath the eve of the cave as falls cascade past the opening, streaming down the sandstone face beyond the lip of the cave.  I’ve often wondered if the water in the carved stone pool was heated at one time because to sit in that cold water in the shade of the overhang would be quite frigid.


    Below the falls. When the river is low you can walk between two large overhanging stones to reach the waterfall.   Draped on the sides are maidenhair ferns.  On the other side of the stones in the other direction is a small rocky beach and another bath carved out of the sandstone.  From here you can enjoy a swim to the water fall or a float down the green alley to another beach farther down.  This area is only safe to swim at very low water levels that can be found only at the end of July and August.


    Beyond the stairs the trail continues further along a worn sandstone path between beds of bright green moss.  It turns beneath a stone archway made by two leaning sandstone rocks. Ivy hangs at the side of the doorway leading to the river beyond.  Walking through it feels like your entering a lost world of wilderness. There the trail continues across the sandstone and into a forest growing on the stones.  The footpaths are slippery.  Above the pathway is another smaller but taller waterfall cascades 100 feet above the river.  


    The trail reaches a sandstone overlook and then a sharp path leads down to a small moon shaped rocky beach right at a surf wave called Paradise Ledge.  A small pool behind the rocky outcrop next to the ledge is a great place to wade in on a hot summer day.  In the early part of the year you might catch a show of white water kayakers surfing the play wave.  In the fall you can glimpse a salmon leaping up the narrow ledge of water or resting in a small sandstone pool at the swift waters edge.


    On the other side of the river you can access the Gorge by turning west into a grassy parking area through an open gate.  Just beyond the gate is a cement and steel box for your $5 entry fee.  Park and follow the trail past the sign says “River Access” that is posted on a tree. From there a steep trail leads down to where the kayakers put in. From the kayaker’s trail you can find perches that overlook the falls and the green alley.  A sloping sandstone beach marks the entry and exit for kayakers and is a sunny spot at mid day along the river corridor.  From the parking area you can continue straight through another gate and explore the Old Town of Franklin and river access previously posted on my blog.


    Being able to access this part of the river is a treat.  For years it was closed and although I was given permission to explore the area for my conservation work it feels less like trespassing now that it is open to the public and can be enjoyed by all.  However, as with any privilege, all it will take is a few yahoos jumping off the cliffs, leaving their trash, or just being jerks for this area to be closed again.  So bring your curiosity, a good pair of skid proof shoes, and enjoy the area.  Please take your garbage with you and use common sense when accessing the water for swimming or floating.  



    My next blog post will be about the river downstream of the Gorge.  A secret swimming spot, a coal car, and a mushroom rock.

     

     

  • Mon, 28 May 2018 21:30:03 -0400

    Franklin Townsite Hike and Beyond

    Spring Time Hike to the Historic Franklin Townsite,

    Mine, Cemetery, and Black Diamond Springs

    Franklin was a company-owned coal mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town site was nestled alongside the Green River Gorge and has many cement foundations, a 1,300-foot coal mine shaft, cemetery, and other reminders of what it was like when coal was king in the King County area.

    Spring is a beautiful time to explore the area.  The brown of winter is replaced with brilliant greens.  The white lace of Ocean Spray hangs off a drapery of branches.  The pink flowers of Salmon berry give way to plump juicy orange berries as spring moves into summer.  Bunches of cascara berries are like bright beacons of red in the forest.  On the ground giant Trillium briefly show their three leafed white flowers.  Everywhere there is bird song as the forest awakes.  Everything is new and  the forest is habitat for fawns, coyote pups, bear cubs, mountain beaver and raccoon kits.


    Along the trail to Franklin there is the strong sound of the the Green River in spring crashing against sandstone cliffs and over boulders, rushing through narrows and lapping at the small eddies and beaches.  The sky becomes crowded with the new leaves of giant Maple, bright green moss paints the old town foundations, and Fiddlehead ferns unfurl their long fronds.

    Walking through the old historic Franklin Townsite is like a treasure hunt. Out of the tangle of ferns, salal, vine maple, and Cedar old building foundations reveal themselves.  Old pieces of cable and rock filled mine shafts catch the corner of your eye.  At the old historic cemetery grave stones mark another time, of people, who pioneered this once bustling coal mining town.  Names like Romulas, Standridge, Farro, Johnson, and Hanson mark the gravestones.  Immigrants of different European descent.  Their descendants, some now scattered to the wind and some still carrying on the lineage locally in the town of Black Diamond and surrounding countryside.


    In the spring at the old cemetery reminders of loved ones come in the form of daffodils and purple vinca carefully planted next to family gravestones.  Even now sometimes you’ll find fresh cut flowers next to a lonely headstone.  This is a community with roots that go long and deep.  Even today old timers care for the cemetery and local Black Diamond museum.  The old townsite like the river is measured in a different metronome.  The town in generations.  The river in geologic strata that forms the river banks.

    The Trail

    The trail starts at the northern side of the Green River Gorge Resort.  For $5 you can park in a field on the western side of the road.  From the trailhead you pass through a gate from private land to the undeveloped Washington State Parks land.  From there the choices are a couple of lefts that lead down to the river in different spots.  The first leads down to a steep river edge lined in dark stone.  Across the river is an old coal car that still sticks out of the river and a mushroom rock. 


    The other left, which is my favorites, is a local’s swimming whole with a sandstone whale breaching from the deep green of the river.  A flat rock is exposed in the late summer is the perfect perch to soak in the long awaited sunshine of a northwest summer.  


    Pass by those and follow a gravel road up hill to a fork.  At the fork is an old black coal car donated by Palmer Coking and Coal. 


    The right leads to some old foundations.  To the left the road becomes a trail heading farther upward to a fenced and grated mine shaft and a wall of sedimentary leaf prints imprinted in pink and orange sandstone.  Beyond the mine shaft the trail leads further up past old elevated metal rails that looks like it may have transported little coal cars but actually transported a water line.



    After a walk along the edge of the hill you finally arrive at the old cemetery.  A small loop trail leads through the old gravestones.  If you continue past there to the left you’ll drop down to an old road that leads down to the Black Diamond Springs.  From the river you can see the water of three joined springs tumble down a rocky hillside and spill into the river.  Cold clear water that supplies the city of Black Diamond with water.  A suspension bridge that is locked leads to the spring side of the river.  The trail pretty much deadness there.  Beyond that are thickets of nettles,  and native black berry that make bushwacking a painful process.


    For a map, directions, and more information visit Outdoor Project Hike Description:  https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/hikes/franklin-ghost-town-mine-cemetery

    For more information you can visit:

    Black Diamond History Website

    Black Diamond Facebook Page

    If you’re unfamiliar with the town’s history, check out Franklin: Everything You Always Wanted to Know, at http://wp.me/pDbRj-hV.

  • Mon, 30 Apr 2018 21:30:40 -0400

    Volunteer on May 5th at the Green River Cleanup

    Help out on the ground or on the river:  Go to http://www.greenrivercleanup.org for a list of ways you can volunteer.


    “The Green River Clean-Up was conceived by Volunteers for outdoor Washington. In 1985 they removed over 100 tons of trash, pollutants, cars, tires, appliances etc. on 130 miles of river banks from Tacoma’s Headworks to Elliot Bay. The 14 mile Gorge reach was organized by Washington State Parks Dennis Meyers, then Ranger At Kanaskat Palmer. Included Washington Kayak Club, Paddle Trails Canoe Club, Boeing Whitewater and Touring Club and the fledgling Washington Recreational River Runners”.



    Join the 2018 Green River Cleanup

    May 5th, 2018

    Sign up on Facebook

    For the last 33 years the Washington Recreational River Runners and Friends of the Green, and others have been organizing a river cleanup of the Green River Gorge.  Whitewater boaters come from all over to run the iconic Green River Gorge and give back to their river.  As many as 500 boaters and ground crews have shown up to help clean up the river and shorelines of garbage.  Garbage that at times consists of flip flops, beer bottles, and deflated inner tubes.  Other times boaters and ground crews have removed old cars, motorcycle skeletons and even a car sized plastic jug.



    If you are an expert boater this is a great opportunity to run one of the top whitewater rivers in Washington State. 



    For non boaters or inexperienced boaters you can see the river through a reputable whitewater rafting company as a passenger or join one of the ground crews at various locations along the river.



    Raft with River Recreation

    As always, garbage continues to be a problem where ever people can access the Gorge.  I doubt there will ever be a day when the Green River Cleanup is not needed.  For now the annual event is a great way to see this unique river gorge and give back to the river. 

    For more information visit: http://www.greenrivercleanup.org



    Sign up on the event page on Washington Recreational River Runners Facebook page.


  • Sun, 22 Apr 2018 22:00:11 -0400

    From the Air Above...

    What does the Green River Gorge look like from above?  That is the question I asked myself when I enlisted my friend, a pilot, to fly me over the Gorge in April of 2017.



    Before that day I’d only seen the gorge from the depths or along the cliff edges.  Above the gorge the sky is framed in a forest or 50 million year old sandstone.  Planes fly overhead along with Eagles and Osprey.  Along this narrow airspace cliff swallows perform aerial maneuvers catching insects in the evening sky.  Below, on the ground and in the river is a secluded corridor where bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, and river otters can move freely from east to west unencumbered by roadways and houses.   White water boaters, hikers, fishermen seeking solitude or adventure can find it here.



    The corridor is long and snakes between one landscape to the north and the one to the south.  From the highway 169 you might consider the gorge a big ditch that you have to cross to get from Black Diamond to Enumclaw.  There is no way through it, only over it.  From the ground it is hard to gauge the profoundness of this deep river carved gorge.



    From the air it is equally elusive but more is revealed.  At the eastern edge is the foothills of the upper Green River watershed.  Up against the foothills is the the barrier of the Howard Hanson Dam.  The dam supplies water to the city of Tacoma and is used for flood control.  It filled the upper gorge which was also quite unique.  Richard Bangs, the founder of Expedia and one of the first people to raft many of the world’s major rivers rafted the upper gorge before it was dammed.  Now that gorge is a lake of water. 


    It was a dam that led Wolf Bauer in the 60s to advocate for creating the Green River Gorge Conservation Plan.  He had watched the Cowlitz river canyon disappear under a reservoir behind a dam and new that he had to save the the Green River Gorge.  The evidence shows what could have happened to the Green River Gorge without his efforts to protect the gorge.



    Surrounding the upper dam and reservoir is a tapestry of clearcuts and third growth timber forests.  A green steel railroad bridge marks the transition from the upper watershed to the middle watershed.  The foothills lie above it and the rural transition lies below it. Just below the railway bridge the Kanaskat / Cumberland Road crosses over the river and is one of only 3 bridges over the gorge.  To the north of the bridge is a gravel pit.  Below the dam are a smattering of houses and the Cumberland / Kanaskat bridge before the river enters Kanaskat State Park.  There the Gorge narrows as it enters the actual Gorge. 


    From above the gorge looks like a deep green snake it twists its way through a millennia of river carved sandstone.  Cutting through thick evergreen forest.  Wherever the landscape is more forgiving you’ll see a house or two along the edge. 



    Wolf worked to protect the land from the rim of the river to the bottom of the gorge but beyond that there is very little protection for the uplands behind the river’s edge.  Already view homes are cutting away forest.  Still there is a sense of wild remoteness where forest remains, towering cliffs carve quiet islands broken only by a kayaker, rafter, or merganser riding the river’s currents.


    From Kanaskat to the Green River Gorge resort is the upper gorge and the most wild and isolated area of the river.  Only broken by a power line corridor that cuts across the river just above the famous rapids Mercury and the Nozzle.  



    At the Green River Gorge resort is only the second bridge to cross over the gorge.  A small gathering of homes and a private access to the river lies there.  Trails lead down to cascading waterfalls, sandstone footpaths, and a green alley of water that ends in a play wave called Paradise ledge.


    Beyond the ledge the river sneaks back into seclusion past towering white and yellow sandstone cliffs, by a myriad of springs that topple out of the surrounding hillsides and fill the river with cold clear water.  Fishermen’s trails careen through thick forest, Devil’s Club, and along steep cliff walls to small open beaches perfect for casting a line into the deep green pools below the whitewater rapids.



    Just below halfway, highway 169 crosses over the river and marks the transition of the river from  deep remote canyon to wider forested slopes with rural farms and houses encroaching closer to the edge.  To the north Black Diamond grows around the gorge’s edge.  To the south farmlands of the Enumclaw plateau stretch towards the White river further to the south.




    The terminus of the Gorge is at Flaming Geyser State Park.  This is where the gorge officially ends and the Green River Valley begins.  This river carved canyon lies just a few miles from over 2 million people. It is the last remaining east / west corridor of open space connecting the foothills of the upper Green River watershed Puget Sound lowlands of the Green River Valley.  




    From the air above it is easy to see why this area is so unique and worth continued conservation efforts that were originally started by Wolf Bauer in the 60s.  Today they need you to help continue the effort.  It is a unique opportunity for conservation in an expanding urban / suburban landscape that can help protect lowland habitat for wildlife and recreation opportunities for the adventurous among us.



    Happy Earth Day!

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